Thursday, 3 November 2016

#14: Dynasty Warriors 5

After a drought, a deluge!

Taking pity on me, Emily chose Dynasty Warriors 5 as the next game for me to beat. Accordingly, I've already played through one character's story and started another for good measure.

DW5 is somewhere of a middle ground between the new, extremely easy titles and the ridiculously difficult ones like DW3. This is mainly the result of more rapid weapon acquisition and missile weapons not knocking you over. Having a bodyguard around with which to activate Double Musou is also very useful. I think this is also the last in the series to have the bow as an alternate weapon?

Killing ludicrous hordes of Chinese guys is as fun as ever. They're perhaps a little more aggressive than before, which means you usually have to at least consider the possibility that you'll get knocked out of combos; the counterattack move is often a sure bet. As for officers, their AI seems the same, though for some reason, weapon clashes seem to happen more frequently. However, everyone still says "Cow Cow".

These minor changes between iteration really make me want to put together some kind of document describing exactly how the Musou series have progressed. I spy another Google spreadsheet or two in my future.

In other news, I've started work on a fairly simple roguelike game written in Game Maker Studio. It's quite a new experience, though it bears some similarity to The Games Factory, which I used decades ago. I have other game projects, but it has been difficult to work up enthusiasm for them because there is so much left to do. Hopefully, learning a new environment/language will give me the impetus to finish a game for once.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

#13: Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments

I'm very sorry that I haven't posted any updates recently! Life has been hectic and great and awful, and also I'm bad at writing blog posts regularly.

About a month ago, TrueAchievements started the second run of their Ultimate Head to Head contest, an event which pits pairs of gamers against each other in a race to get as many achievements from a list neither of them have. As soon as I saw it mentioned, I joined, then promptly forgot to do anything about it. When the contest started, I felt a complete idiot, as I realised it had picked about half of the list from the Xbox One games I couldn't play, but owned thanks to Games With Gold. There was a way to fix this before the contest began.

In the first week, my opponent was apologetic but destroyed me. Thankfully, the first four rounds were not knockout style, and it was my birthday coming up, so my father-in-law felt pity on me and sent an Xbox One my way! From then on, I could complete properly, which was amazing up until I lost my first knockout round. Oh well. Next year.

Anyway, this significant lead up explains why the next of my Games Beaten in 2016 is Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments. An adventure game, it follows six cases more-or-less inspired by the original Doyle stories.

From the beginning, it is clear that the developers have a great deal of respect for the source material. The environments feel real; every room and outside area is strewn with beautiful stuff. Dialogue is of the time, characters are reasonable, progression is natural. The game is fully voice acted, and while it is sometimes a little repetitive, the interactions between Holmes and Watson are genuinely funny and made me chuckle a few times. In short, it's everything I miss when I'm playing Ace Attorney. Things make sense in this game.

Unfortunately, it's also a little bit too easy. There are frequent mini-games which test your reflexes or accuracy, but they are skippable with no other penalty than potentially missing out on some achievements. You don't have to make any intelligent choices in dialogue. The game's deduction system, which is otherwise an excellent way to visualise what is supposedly happening in Sherlock's head, never requires you to actually know what you're talking about. An interesting twist is that the game does allow you to make the wrong conclusion for each case. Some of these are more believable than others, but the common thread is that you can reach them without finding all the pertinent clues.

Overall, I found it a pleasant experience, but not a mind-blowing one. I'd love to see a game which uses a similar engine but with more in-depth dialogue and more ways to be 'wrong'. Definitely worth the price of free which I got it for.

You might be wondering why this post isn't about Nocturne or Motocross Madness. Well, for some reason the latter has been removed from the online store, so I can't play it. I'll ask Emily to roll me another game. As for Nocturne, uh... maybe one day.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

#12: Astonishia Story

Sometimes, when I visit used game shops, I like to pick stuff off the shelves simply because I've never heard of it. It doesn't hurt if they only cost a few pounds. This game is one of those.

Astonishia Story for the PSP is actually a remake of some 90s Korean PC RPG. Amusingly, the title screen specifically bills it as an "easy RPG for beginners". If you were expecting an experience akin to Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, you might be slightly confused. This game has a tactical battle system like Fire Emblem. It's closer to Shining Force in execution, though, as all the characters will get their turn according to their speed, rather than each side taking turns. There's also an elemental system which I honestly could not understand the effects of, despite the manual explaining it.

So, the story starts off in a rather standard manner. You're a knight, you're protecting a convoy, it gets attacked, everyone except you dies, etc. The entire rest of the game is spent trying to get this for-some-reason-important staff back from the guys who stole it. One of the last things you do in this game is pick it up and leave. In-between these two events, you are drawn into a series of vaguely-related side-quests with a cast of almost two-dimensional characters. Instead of going the route where you slowly build up your strength and get to know how well you can proceed through experience, Astonishia Story instead constantly throws people at you then takes them away a dungeon or two later.

Infuriatingly, the developers knew they were making a thoroughly average game and decided to try and spice it up with (ugh) humour. This takes many forms, though usually the slapstick kind. At one point some shady character offers you a hacked item, and if you accept, some guy appears and punishes you for not playing the game properly. Between this ill-fated attempt to make me smile and the consistently dreadful translation, it doesn't win many points on this front.

The graphics are generally not bad, late-SNES/early-PS1 in appearance. There are a few scripted fight sequences which are done with care. The music is pretty bad.

Now, about that "easy RPG" thing. While it's true that the game is not particularly complicated, it has a difficulty curve like a roller-coaster. Partially this was because of my usual unease about using consumable items, but the main problem is spell-casting enemies. On any given turn, they could walk up to you and smack you on the head with a stick for five damage, or cast any number of bizarrely spelt/named spells and hit everybody for three hundred. It's maddening! The last boss gauntlet is the pinnacle of this, which necessitated many resets. There were also a number of boss fights which require whittling down over the course of perhaps half an hour.

As you might be able to tell, I don't think it's a very good game. Thankfully, the battle system is fine and the menus are nice and responsive, so it goes on my "speedrun this when I'm retired and I have no cares or worries" pile.

My next two games to beat are Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne (might take me a while) and Motocross Madness (haha avatar racing game). Woo!

Sunday, 10 July 2016

#11: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Justice for All

So, Phoenix Wright. The series sticks out in my mind as having a ravenous fanbase, amusing in-universe adverts and being one of the first things to run correctly on DS emulators. It also receives a lot of credit for good localisation; the script is huge, but puns and other such frivolities are painstakingly recreated.

Emily owns all three of the WiiWare ports, which are generally the same as the DS versions except for a few annoying realities introduced by only having one screen. I've previously played the first game, which has no subtitle, and over the last few weeks I've been playing the second entry, Justice for All.

If you want to skip a lot of invective, here's the brief: "It's not my kind of game".

Phoenix himself is consistently presented as the standard anime protagonist, i.e. dumb but well-meaning. This is despite him being a lawyer. At various times through the narrative, he reveals how little he knows about legal proceedings, ignorance of self-incrimination laws for example, preferring to win his trials by arguing over endless minutiae and blindly guessing. However comedic the setting is supposed to be, this just rubs me the wrong way; I'm not fond of playing as idiots, no matter how righteous they are. His saving grace is in the depth of his relationships with others, though he is consistently used by those around him. I might enjoy seeing him become more bitter over time because of this.

The other characters are an eclectic mix. From memory, here are some of them:
  • A ventriloquist who doesn't talk without his puppet, who has an eye-rollingly acerbic personality.
  • A paranormal researcher who, like, is clueless and like, stops talking mid-sentence, like, you know?
  • An old lady who crushes on every single handsome member of the cast, changing loyalties at the drop of a hat.
  • A prosecutor who whips people all the fucking time for no reason why the hell are they not arrested immediately
Again, I know it's the nature of the series to be outrageous. My problem with this is that when everything is outrageous, nothing is outrageous anymore. There's no sensible baseline which allows you to approach the game with a modicum of logic. Any stupid thing could happen at any time, and because magic is actually real in this universe, you can never know if something is possible or not. One of the cases has a stage magician who flies, and the game doesn't even consider his ability to fly an open question. He just can't, because magic doesn't exist. Except for the spirit channelling stuff which happens constantly.

For those who don't know, each case is split roughly in half between investigation and courtroom. Investigation is largely quite interesting, gradually unfolding the truth from witness statements and searching rooms for evidence. It can be slightly annoying when the game has a non-obvious flag to set to continue with the story, but generally this part is quite good. It reminds me of point and click adventure games, mostly.

In the courtroom, you are directly competing against the prosecutor to prove your arguments. This appeals to me the most; I think this is an incredibly rich area for games to explore. It's why it makes me so sad/angry that Ace Attorney doesn't really pull it off to my satisfaction.

Trials proceed in a circular fashion with testimonies punctuated by small factual discussions. In each case, witnesses have been "prepared" by the prosecution to be very unhelpful. Your task is to unfold their lies and find out the truth. This isn't too bad; mostly, the arguments make sense and are easy to follow if you paid attention during the investigation. Sometimes they hinge on a single phrase or even a word made by some random person, and those can be hard to remember. The game does go 'ding!' occasionally when you learn something important, but there are enough non-ding! parts with useful content that this isn't the best guide.

Where the game completely goes off the deep end is with the last case. The leaps of logic and grasping at straws here are legendary; the game lampshades this quite heavily, which doesn't exactly endear me to it. At one point Phoenix completely makes up his argument, with no prior hints at all, and is then accepted as gospel thereon. While in the context of this particular case it makes some sense, it still makes me grit my teeth that I have do such a bad job in order to win. Later on you are forced to do the exact thing the game tells you not to do, pressing a witness so far past rationality that everyone thinks you are insane. I began to get very frustrated at this point. Breaking the rules is certainly good to explore, though generally when you do it in a courtroom you commit perjury or something.

"Perjury" would be a good word for this series to learn, actually. Along with "mistrial".

I'm sure the ending was meant to be heartwarming and so on, but I was so tired and fed up of being mistreated by the narrative that I mostly just felt relief. This is generally observed to be a black mark against a game. There's a lot of philosophising about "what it means to be a lawyer" during the latter half which shows some promise, but essentially everything is resolved ham-handedly without you needing to make any serious decision either way.

I can see why people love Ace Attorney. Those reasons are kind of why I don't love it. I know at some point I'll play the rest, but I just don't know how to enjoy this stuff. I wish it were just a bit more sober.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016


It's an idea which has gained and lost popularity over the years, but it's still around. However, it has changed form slightly.

Never Alone is the first game I'll talk about. On a purely game-centric level, it is simple, easy, somewhat monochromatic co-op platformer. Where the game comes into its own is the rich heritage of the Inuktitut people. This provides the story of the game and a series of videos with real Inuk, offering a shallow but intriguing view into a very alien culture. The game is also narrated in Inuk language, providing its real title: Kisima Inŋitchuŋa.

I'm glad to see this kind of thing among the endless retro-inspired trendy platformers. However, the game does not control well, resulting in a fair bit of frustration despite the low difficulty and short length. Worth a try if you're patient enough to watch the videos.

Next up is Valiant Hearts: The Great War. As the title suggests, it is set in World War I, and switches back and forth between various viewpoints. It is eager to point out the similarities in each side, drawing parallels in the hatred and stupidity of officers everywhere. Like Never Alone, it is a simple puzzle/platformer, but it also has a few minigames to break it up a little. Despite the unavoidably grim tone imparted by the setting, it still manages to pull off some moments of levity.

While the two games share common goals and have some similar features, I much prefer Valiant Hearts for its poignancy and snappy art style. Also of note is its developer, Ubisoft, who are popularly seen as corporate and unfeeling; it's good to see that they can still produce compelling games.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

#10: Maximo

Yes, I finally beat this thing.

Maximo is a 3D platformer in the same franchise as Ghosts 'n Goblins. Here's a list of things it keeps from that venerable series.
  • Your armour explodes as you take damage (though you do have more health)
  • You wear boxers with hearts on (or other patterns, not sure they do anything...)
  • It's very easy to jump off platforms into lava/water/etc.
  • It's hard
It's not the hardest game I've played, but it wasn't satisfying enough for its level of difficulty. The camera was often a major culprit, forcing me to make leaps of faith when it got stuck behind something. Also, combat is rather finicky, with a long lag time after several swing animations. Of course, this is part of the intended difficulty; this isn't a mash-happy action RPG, oh no, you have to place your sword with accuracy.

The game proceeds through five worlds, in typical era-fashion. Graveyard, Swamp, Snow, Hell, Castle. Though the fourth is literally in hell, the third one made me feel like I was. At the very least, Maximo can actually affect his velocity mid-air, mainly through the use of the double jump, but sliding floor is never fun. Most of my deaths were in the Snow and Hell areas. Oh, and about death...

You have a normal lives system, but there are also these special blocks you can destroy which release fairies. When you get 50 fairies, you lose them and gain a special coin. What's this coin for? When you run out of lives, you have to pay Death to revive you, even though you are explicitly on a mission for him. At first, you pay one coin, but if you keep running out of lives, the price goes up. That's not annoying at all. By the time I had finished (I continued twice in the last world, because there are no save points), my revival price was four coins.

Where the game becomes interesting is in its power up system. Chests and enemies randomly drop from a pool of abilities; quite a variety here, like letting you throw your shield, or shoot your sword with power. You can pick up a lot of these at once... I think I managed 12 at one point. You have several 'lock points' on your ability bar, and are free to swap the order of abilities around. When you die (just a life, not a continue), you lose all the non-locked abilities. You start with three, and gain one per world beaten. This wouldn't be so bad, but I was going for an extra challenge where you keep four essentially useless abilities through the game, so I never did get any use out of those extra slots.

The music is just remixes of that one theme from Ghosts 'n Goblins. You know the one.

Each world is topped off with a boss encounter (of course), which are all simple pattern-based things with one weak point. Work it out and they become trivial. After the fight, you get to choose between a save, suit of armour or the useless ability I mentioned before. Yes, you can't save freely; you have to pay 100 gold coins at specific points in the world hubs.

Final thoughts? OK. Not great. Frustrating, but only people who like frustration are going to buy it. Not sad it's over. Not sad I spent £2 on it.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Half Way Ish

It's June! Almost half way through 2016. GOAL CHECK!

Watch few video game streams
Haha, no, I've watched tons.

Don't play League of Legends
Managed this one. It doesn't bug me that often, though I am occasionally tempted to watch some LoL play.

Stream game playthroughs
Barely. I need to stream more.

Record and submit speedruns
I have recorded some ILs of El Shaddai months ago, but other than a few Ultima II attempts, not much has happened on this front.

My strategy game prototype
Done lots of work on this! It's still not ready to show, though. While my natural engineering instinct is to fix things that seem broken to me, I need to knuckle down and create an actual playable demo or something, just to make proof of concept.

Redo the website
I keep thinking about it, inevitably while on the train to work, but not a lot has actually been done. I guess my main problem is that I don't really know what I should focus on. Doing searches online for other online game database type dealios reveals a lot of them, but they never really get to the obsessive level of detail I'd like.

So, not so great.

On the gaming front, there's rather a lot to report... my backlog of things to write posts about is huge! So, I'll totally flake out and make a summary...

Emily and I have been zooming through my Musou collection to try and make our progress look less pathetic. To that end, we've beaten Dynasty Warriors 3 (this was hard!), Dynasty Warriors 4 (not as hard) and Dynasty Warriors: Gundam (Amuroooo). I also beat Samurai Warriors Chronicles (mostly while at Emptyeye and Silver's apartment), Dynasty Warriors Portable (that's what it should be called anyway), Samurai Warriors: State of War (Samurai Warriors Portable), Dynasty Warriors Vol. 2 (Portable 2), Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires (PS3 version, so 20fps powerrrr) and Warriors: Legends of Troy (fun, but not many characters).

Even after all that, we still have fifteen left that we currently own, including Xtreme Legends and stuff like that. Onwards~

Saturday, 2 April 2016

#9: E-SWAT: City Under Siege

Damn, it's been a while!

There's a few reasons for that. Most relevant is that I've been playing other games, which I really should write about at some point. I've even made some progress in Project X Zone... you can take that as indication to how I feel about E-SWAT: City Under Siege.

I didn't exactly wax lyrical about it last time, but now that I've managed to go through the game and watch the final boss die, I feel even worse about it. The levels get even less fun, becoming extremely repetitive and much harder. I really can't stress enough just how poor this game is.

I'm somewhat ashamed to say that I didn't beat E-SWAT entirely legitimately. The Mega Drive Ultimate Collection lets you keep three save-states per game, and I used them to maintain my progress between levels. Thanks to the terrible penalty of losing a weapon when you die, there's barely any point in retrying some levels. I guess in Contra fashion you might be able to swap to a useless weapon so you lose that one instead, but I really don't feel like giving this game any credit for strategy.

Do you like hard run and guns? Do you like bad endings to video games? Have you played all the good run and guns? Play E-SWAT. Or better yet, don't.

Emily picked my next game as Astonishia Story, a PSP RPG from Korea. Apparently this is actually "Astonishia Story R", a remake of the first game in the series, but you know how it is with Western JRPG releases.

We have a day out planned tomorrow, so I probably won't make much gaming progress.

Monday, 7 March 2016

#8: Solstice: The Quest for the Staff of Demnos

I complained to Emily so much about ESWAT that she picked another game for me to beat; it's inserting itself in my queue just before, but it doesn't replace it, so I still have to play that shitshow again soon.

Thankfully, she picked a good game, Solstice: The Quest for the Staff of Demnos, a game I originally bought purely because of the awesome Tim Follin soundtrack. It's an isometric puzzle platformer with pretty well-known difficulty, so I wasn't really sure how long it would take me to beat it. About 12 hours, it turns out.

You're dumped straight into it after a brief introduction, with no idea where to go. The game controls quite well, but it offers few clues that help you to play it; Shadax (your homie) does not have a shadow and individual tiles can be of several different heights - there are no visual cues like shading or lighting to know this. Many rooms are only beatable with trial and error. The goal of the game is to reassemble the Staff of Demnos (six pieces) and confront some evil wizard.

Aside from walking, jumping, picking up and dropping blocks, there is one other action you can take - using a potion. The four potions make you invincible, destroy all moving objects, freeze all moving objects or reveal all invisible tiles respectively. All of these effects only count for the current room. There are refills for each colour, but only a limited amount, so knowing where these are is fairly important. However, if you plan your route carefully then you'll barely need to use them.

At first I played randomly, exploring the various rooms and working out where things were. Eventually I decided that the map was too big for me to memorise, so I started making some maps on graph paper... they aren't perfectly accurate, but I was still able to gradually fill them in as I explored more. There is a missing room that I forgot to correct, but it's not overly important.

There are many extra lives scattered through the game, which you will need. There are also credits, which have a rather irritating function. These credits are essentially one-use save points; they remember your keys, staff pieces and location. If you run out of lives, you'll be transported back to the last credit you used; so if you keep dying, you lose more and more progress. It may be in your interest to skip credits early on in the game to come back to them later, despite the time loss.

I started my finishing attempt a few hours ago; I had already seen maybe 85% of the game, but the last part was by far the most difficult, relying on everything learnt until that point. One set of rooms in particular took me maybe 20 minutes to get past, because of strict timing constraints. In fact, I had no lives left for the final stretch (though there is a nearby credit) so I was anxious. Finally I prevailed, though I no idea what to do after finally completing the Staff! As a small act of mercy, the game makes you permanently invincible at this point (spikes still kill you), so I wasn't too worried. There's no final boss; a cut-scene plays and you get to listen to more awesome music.

I recorded my playthrough should you wish to watch; the video is about 55 minutes long. Emily also scanned in my maps, so you can take a look! I had to stitch these together from five A5 pages...

The upper halls; starting location is near the middle of the keep-like structure on the right
The dungeons and path to the final area (last 10 rooms or so aren't drawn)
After fucking ESWAT I have Maximo to play through, choice courtesy of SwoodDude who is currently trying to raise funds for a new computer. You should take a look at his stream, where he and some friends are currently developing an indie game!

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

#6-8: SEGA Arcade Classics(?)

Not too long ago, I acquired the PS3 version of SEGA Mega Drive Ultimate Collection (Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for Americans). I mainly bought it to play the Shining Force and Phantasy Star series, but there are many other MD games I've never really cared about on there. Emily attempted to remedy this by picking three games in a row from the collection.

The first is Alien Storm, a simple brawler that I knew little about. Unusually for the genre, it also includes numerous shooting-gallery style sections, which are a neat break from the usual gameplay, if not particularly deep. The three characters seem extremely similar, so there's not much replay value there. Health packs are scarce, so reducing damage in every situation is important. Instead, there are plenty of Energy pickups; this allows you to use your full-screen attack but it also seems to have a passive strengthening effect on your normal attacks.

The game has 8 stages; on my first attempt I reached 6 but the gauntlet of bosses followed by an autoscroller finished me off. To compromise (the only brawler I'm any good at is Golden Axe) I changed the settings down to Easy and enabled a turbo-fire option which makes the shooting galleries trivial. I'm glad I did; while it was definitely a little too easy for me, the final boss took almost 2 minutes straight turbo-fire to destroy, which would have ruined my mashing finger. In summary, a decent brawler, but nothing special.

Next up was Tip Top (Congo Bongo to some). Technically Emily didn't pick this one, but I tried it out at random and guessed it would be very short, and I was right. Essentially, it's a lot like Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr., except the perspective is isometric. One slightly different mechanic is that you can either climb onto blocks or jump; climbing is slower but consistent, whereas jumping is very difficult to judge correctly and will bounce you back if you hit the side of a ledge. There seem to be miscellaneous other ways to score points, like jumping off collapsing blocks, but the main way is to just keep progressing.

There are four boards with various hazards, and the gameplay loops after the fourth, though they add more enemies and so on. You've seen this set-up before. Again, it's not a particularly stand-out game (the home versions bombed horribly for some reason) but there's nothing really wrong with it other than the terrible sound. Play it if you're bored of Donkey Kong, I guess.

Third comes ESWAT: City Under Siege. This game is aggressively terrible and you should never play it. Nothing about it is fun. It's far too difficult, the graphics and music aren't any good, and it's too long for what it is. Bizarrely for a run and gun, it's also confusing in dull ways.

No, I haven't beaten it yet. I'll add another paragraph when I do.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

#5: Shadow of the Colossus HD

There's not a great deal to say about Shadow of the Colossus that hasn't already been said, but that won't stop me.

Team ICO are a strange developer that only have three titles to their name: Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, and the as-yet unreleased The Last Guardian. All of them share ideas and visual design elements without explicitly being in a series; there are some small ties between Ico and SotC. I'm sure the same will be true when TLG finally comes out, which has been in development for almost 10 years.

Shadow of the Colossus is one of those games that makes your brow furrow. You're clearly doing some inadvisable, awful thing, yet you want to see it through to completion. You only have the word of a few characters to go on through this; the game has speech, but almost no dialogue. The land you journey through is mostly empty, your closest companion is a horse, the circumstances that brought you here are described only vaguely. Even the creatures you are sent to destroy mainly see you as a curiosity instead of a foe. No matter what you do, something seems off.

Injecting such a feeling into an otherwise very sterile game is an achievement.

It's not perfect, though. The original suffered some horrific frame-rate drops during the colossus fights, but this HD version improves upon that. There's barely anything to actually do once you've beaten the game; exploring the environment is interesting, but it's not gigantic, and the lizard/fruit-shooting isn't exactly fun past the first time. There is a Hard Mode and time trials are available, only offering re-runs of the game you've already experienced. Some of the colossi are infuriating, with tiny windows of opportunity for damage.

I enjoyed this game immensely. Like many of its proponents, I want to see more information about its back-story, the surrounding world, the characters' motivations... but perhaps that would spoil its charm. As an enigma, it continues to interest me even though I don't have the controller in my hand.

This game comes packaged with Ico HD, which I'll get round to eventually.

At this point, Emily started picking really short games from the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection, so I'll write one post which describes them together.

#4: WarioWare: Smooth Moves

It's a Wii, Wario!

The WarioWare games are an odd bunch; essentially, you're repeatedly given very simple tasks to do in a tiny time limit. The task is usually obvious, prompted by a short phrase or perhaps even a single word like 'Unlock' or 'Straighten'. Each instalment has taken advantage of some kind of gimmick. 'Twisted' was a GBA game with an accelerometer in the cartridge, so most of its games revolved around spinning the console in some way.

'Smooth Moves' is the Wii game, so of course it relies on its motion controls. For this reason, it's a frustrating mess! I don't enjoy party games most of the time anyway, but when it feels like my inputs only have a vague relation to what happens on-screen, it's much worse. Still, the main factor in winning each 'microgame' is reaction time, so I was able to get through without too much trouble. However, occasionally Emily had to tell me what I was doing wrong. The samurai microgame is particularly egregious, relying on relatively precise Wiimote placement, decent reaction time and a lack of prompts in the harder version.

This in mind, I didn't enjoy WarioWare: Smooth Moves but I can understand people who do. It seems like a decently fun way of wasting time (especially in groups, which it is obviously meant to be played in) - for me, that's exactly the issue. I want games with more depth.

Friday, 26 February 2016

#3: Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land

First you draw a circle...

I have a mixed relationship with the Kirby series. I respect the interesting game mechanics, the music and sharp design. However, I also resent the low difficulty, the way every game barely improves on the previous one in the series and how much of an obvious cute pointless mascot Kirby himself is.

The most pressing issue for me is the controls, though. I'm well aware that most people don't have any issue with them, but they vex me to no end. Jump on a button and a d-pad direction? The momentum Kirby generates after pressing a direction for maybe 3 frames? The gust of air he spits out, killing the enemy in front of you that you wanted to swallow? Every tiny thing about his movement has resulted in me rolling my eyes at least once.

This might seem at odds with what I said about the difficulty; that's actually the problem! All of the games are very easy (though they often include challenge modes), so they don't require you to be any good at the game to beat them. Every time I make some kind of input error it annoys me, but the game barely notices, throwing barrels of extra lives and health refills at you almost up until the end boss falls over. While it suits many gamers just fine, I feel like I'm being patronised.

Even with all this, Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land is excellently put together. I felt frustrated, but not overly so. The levels are interesting and varied, finding secrets is actually fun, the music keeps your spirits up, it's not too long or too short.

I've already beaten the next game because it took me too long to write this post.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

#2: Balloon Fight

Well, I already beat it. Last night, in fact.

For those not in the know, Balloon Fight is a simple action game where you fly around and beat people up. Both you and enemy fighters are held aloft by balloons - you get two, they get one, but they have the luxury of being able to re-inflate them if they land on something solid. At this point you can deliver them a sweet flying kick to remove them from the stage. The other way of killin' dudes is letting them drop into the water, where they will either drown or get eaten by a gigantic fish.

Controls are heavily momentum-based, and there are essentially only three inputs: left, right and flap. The game doesn't give you any time to get used to this, so you'll probably get dunked a few times before you start a decent run through the game. The levels loop after 12, which I got past a number of times, so I call this mode beaten. Two-player play is available, but it's simply a cooperative version of this mode.

There is also another mode, called Balloon Trip. This is a simple side-scroller (which goes to the left, for some reason) with lots of lightning bolts to avoid and balloons to pick up, usually in precarious places. After a couple of tries I managed to grab all the balloons, so there's not much else to do!

Fun, short game. Decent difficulty, not much aggravation. Worth being called a classic.

My next game is Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land. I've played the original a bit.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

#1: Phantasy Star Portable

Well, one game has fallen to my mighty thumbs so far this year: Phantasy Star Portable. It styles itself as a sequel to Phantasy Star Universe, picking up the plot 3 months later, but it almost exclusively uses resources from that game, so the experience is very similar indeed. The plot is even basically the same, what with a looming threat from SEED and the planetary representatives being jerks about letting the Guardians do their jobs.

Stepping back a bit, PSU is essentially a revisit of Phantasy Star Online, one of the first graphical MMOs. PSO is an offshoot of the long-running Phantasy Star series, the first title being a party-based dungeon crawler on the Master System. From the beginning, it has stood out with its female protagonists, high-tech setting and singular visual style. It has also produced some excellent soundtracks, several of which grace my media library.

The first four games are standard JRPG fare, but Online created full-3D (slightly) randomly generated environments, and also introduced MMO-standard grinding/farming mechanics. Despite this, it can still be played in single-player mode with a definitive 'credit roll' ending; this lets you replay the game on a higher difficulty setting, similar to Diablo II. The fact that you can use the same character off- and on-line meant that hacking was a huge problem, leading to many revisions of the game being released on various consoles. It was probably one of the Dreamcast's most popular games, keeping it going longer than it might have otherwise.

I played as a Newman Hunter at first, giving myself a rather unlikely hair/skin colour combination as is my wont. My experience with PSU so far led me to focusing on melee weapons, as spells and ranged weapons really don't benefit from Universe's (slightly) more complex combat. The different weapon types (of which there many) have reasonably different feels, making the choice meaningful; there is a 'palette' of six weapons you can freely switch between in battle, though if you're quick with the game menu, you could swap in even more during combat if you really wanted to. My favourite part of this system is that you are able to put melee weapons in your right hand and ranged weapons in your left, allowing for quite a bit of customisation. Portable adds (I think?) Mags which fill up the ranged slot, either providing cover fire automatically or being a decent launchpad for spells if you're not otherwise a spell-focused class.

As soon as I hit Hunter level 7, I changed to Fighmaster, which essentially just a better Hunter, able to wield several S-class weapons. Unfortunately, the only one I found was a Mag that only Rangers could equip. This appeared to be a set drop in the final area, because I got several of them.

Difficulty was usually low, though some bosses were much, much harder than their surrounding dungeon. De Rol Le made an appearance (first in PSO) and it fully took an hour to beat him, because this incarnation lets you hit him even less than the original one did. The final boss blew me away so quickly in my initial attempt that I just knew it would be impossible without grinding. Over the next 3 hours I gained 8 levels and a couple of equipment upgrades, and this was JUST enough... the final boss gauntlet (3 forms, essentially) left me with only 6 of 30 healing items, and no Scape Dolls (instant resurrect if you die).

Overall, a decent game, but if you've already played Phantasy Star Universe, there isn't much to see. The soundtrack and graphics are both essentially the same, just of lower quality.

My next game (picked by my beautiful assistant) is, uh... Balloon Fight. Maybe this one won't need 3 hours of grinding.

Sunday, 10 January 2016


So, let's look at those 'resolutions' again.

Watch as few video game streams as possible
Fairly successful on this. Generally I've been watching while eating, so I couldn't have really been doing anything else, or when I'm waiting for something else to happen. There are a few games/people I like to support by watching, such as Shining Force, which keep me coming back to Twitch.

Play no League of Legends

Regularly stream play-throughs of unfinished games from my collection
Not done any of this yet. I'm not really sure how to pick a first game, among other issues.
Update: Emily picked Phantasy Star Portable as my first game to beat this year.

Record and submit a speedrun or two
I have been streaming speedrun attempts at El Shaddai, which has been coming along nicely. It still needs plenty of work before it becomes good enough to submit to SDA, but I feel like I do occasionally play well.

Create a working prototype of a strategy game
No work on this so far this year.

Re-build and re-style my website
I've made a few notes, but other than the gaming page, nothing to show.

Sunday, 3 January 2016


In light of what I said about making sure I actually play games this year, I've set up a simple tracking page on my website which will be useful once I start in earnest. The idea is to track progress in each game and give links to VODs. If I need some more information later, it's easy to add to.